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The Bob Ruxer and Don Harris Hour

By Alicia Krzyzewski

After the busy week of the Junior League Horse Show in Lexington, Ky., who could imagine a better way to spend the last beautiful morning of the show than to spend several hours with two of the Saddlebred industry’s most valued treasures, Bob Ruxer and Don Harris. Tolley Graves, executive director of The American Saddlebred Museum, had the pleasure of hosting the event and introducing the featured speakers, Bob Ruxer and Don Harris.

“The Bob and Don Hour” began with Ruxer's home video of Supreme Sultan’s early morning ritual of prancing and showing anyone who would watch why he was such a special horse. Ruxer talked about how he came to be involved in the Saddlebred industry and whom he most admired.

Ruxer even pleasantly surprised Don Harris with a story from his youth. At the beginning of Ruxer's career, with his uncle Alvin’s encouragement, he decided he wanted to learn from the people in the business that he admired the most. Ruxer relayed to the packed theater that Don Harris was one of the four men he chose to observe and learn as much as he could from.

Ruxer continued to weave the delightful story of how he tried to put into practice what he had learned from each of those he had chosen to observe. Comically, Ruxer admitted that he could not figure out what he learned from Harris, as he could not see him doing anything in particular. “I finally realized, years later, that from Don I learned to stay out of a horse’s way. Don Harris is a master at training, because he allows the horse to perform to the best of it’s ability, willingly and simply guides the horse gently toward perfection,” Ruxer said.

After several more entertaining stories, Ruxer invited Harris to share his own experiences with the outstanding horses of his career. With that invitation, the audience was treated to a rarely seen video taken of CH Imperator and Harris at the 1983 Junior League Horse Show in Lexington, Ky. The attendees were all in agreement with Harris that CH Imperator was the epitome of a five-gaited Saddlebred, always performing a true to form slow gait. “Something that we do not see on a regular basis today in the show ring,” explained Harris.

During the brief question and answer session, the question was raised by an attendee, “Why are the judges placing horses that are pacing and not doing a true to form slow gait?” Harris answered as only he could, “We need to ask the judges that question.”

Another attendee asked Harris if he had a favorite horse? He paused and said, ”I would have to say both Cavalier’s Giddy Up And Go and CH Imperator, especially since I maintained a special bond with CH Imperator.”

Don Harris also made a point to talk about the mishap he experienced with Protege' at the World Championship Horse Show in Louisville, Ky., in 1993. In the five-gaited stake, although they had fallen, they both got back up and continued on finally winning the class. Harris stressed to the younger audience that it was important never to give up no matter what happens in a class.

The event came to a close, all to quickly, with a book signing by Ruxer of his new book, “The Silver Saddle” and with Harris signing a beautiful museum exclusive poster of CH Imperator with Harris in the irons.

Listening to the trainers, breeders and owners of these magnificent horses share their stories is invaluable to anyone with an appreciation for or an involvement with the American Saddlebred. Let’s hope that The American Saddlebred Museum will continue to host such interesting and educational events.

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